It is clear that brand development is a complicated process. There are a lot of things to consider.
But, if you strip away the layers of any great brand, what you will find at the core is a deep understanding and dedication to serving an audience. This is both a simple and complex thought.
What would you find if you took everything that makes up your perfect customer (what they care about, what they stand for, who they want to be like, their favorite memory) and distilled it down into a color, a shape, and a feeling?
While this may seem like an abstract practice, this is the beauty of brand strategy.
Sure, there is a loose sort of method that you can follow to map out your vision and bring it to life, but the key is in this creative process of embodying your customer to unearth their secrets and give them what they want.
1. Define Your Brand Objectives and Strategy
Before you can build a strong brand, you must first define your goals and create a strategy to achieve them. Many organizations forget this crucial element, but as with everything in marketing, if you don’t have a strategy, you won’t know how to get from point A to point B, and you won’t know what success looks like.
To define your objectives, think about what you hope to accomplish with your business in 1, 5, and 10 years. If you know where you want to go, coming up with the plan to get there is a lot easier than if you don’t have a clear vision.
Some common branding objectives would be:
- Becoming a recognized industry thought leader
- Having a memorable brand
- Eliciting consumer trust
Once you have your objectives, you can set some KPIs to track the effectiveness of your strategy. When choosing your key metrics, think about what actions must be taken (either internally or externally) to get you to your goals.
For the first objective of thought leadership, some KPIs to watch might be:
- Media brand mentions or requests for interviews / speaking engagements for employees .
- # of website backlinks from reputable sources.
- Anything that is a sign that your brand is gaining influence.
So, if you know that becoming a thought leader in your industry is an important brand goal, and you know what you need to measure, you can decide which tactics you will use to move the needle on your key metrics – this is your strategy.
But what if you don’t know where to start with defining objectives? Here are some exercises to perform.
The first step in setting goals and creating the brand strategy is to do some research around the market.
Market research is the process of actively gathering information about your customers, audience members, industry, and other relevant pieces of the puzzle. A great brand will have a unique selling proposition, be attractive to potential customers and be strategically positioned to stand apart from the competition.
If you truly want to understand the industry landscape, hiring a professional research firm to help you extract these necessary insights is a worthwhile investment. Sure, you can do market research using whatever free information is available, but having an accurate picture of how your brand fits into the industry landscape is paramount to directing the branding process, so don’t cut corners here if you can afford it.
Competitive Marketing Analysis
Part of the brand-building process is to understand your competition and how they’ve positioned themselves from a marketing standpoint so that you can strategically choose how you want to compete.
To start, ask yourself – who are your biggest competitors and why?
Companies who are competing for the same local market and offer similar products and services are probably the most likely to impact your business. These are your direct competitors and should be noted in your brand strategy.
There are also indirect competitors that you might want to keep an eye on. These would be brands who are technically not in your market at the moment, but could be in the future, or companies that sell something different but might still be able to take market share away from your company (for instance, a movie theater versus a traveling circus).
Now that you know who your competition is, you’ll want to dive in and compare the various marketing strategies they are implementing before you start coming up with brand assets of your own.
Define Your Personas
Other than understanding the landscape and defining how you want your brand to be positioned, you need to deeply understand your personas.
Typically, a company will have a buyer persona (the lowest hanging fruit individual who will want to purchase whatever you are selling), and an audience persona (a person who may never buy anything, but who will be interested in potentially evangelizing your brand and consuming or sharing your content).
Virtually every external-facing piece of content you create should speak to one of your key personas. This applies to everything from your website copy, to your social media posts, all the way to the scripts of your customer service reps or chatbots.
In order to do this effectively, your brand voice and personality should be specifically tailored to accommodate these groups of people, and you can’t do that unless you truly, madly, deeply understand who they are, what they want, and how you can help them achieve their goals.
At the beginning when you don’t have tons of customer data to rely on, defining personas can be tricky. The best way to do this is to literally guess who you think your products or services are going to help the most and create an avatar around this guess.
The better your market research is, the easier it will be for you to put together a “minimum viable persona.”
Once you have enough information about your potential and current customers, you can redefine your personas and possibly even refresh your brand to align more closely with them in the future.
But to start, use whatever tools you have at your disposal to come up with who you think your lowest hanging fruit persona is and go from there.